Jules Crittenden, writing at the Boston Herald, has this to say. I’ve added some less than sanguine comments at the end:
When a company defrauds its customers, or delivers shoddy goods, the customers sooner or later are going to take their business elsewhere. But if that company has a virtual monopoly, and offers something its customers must have, they may have no choice but to keep taking it.
That’s when the customers, en masse, need to raise a stink. That’s when someone else with the resources needs to seriously consider whether the time is ripe to compete.
The Associated Press is embroiled in a scandal. Conservative bloggers, the new media watchdogs, lifted a rock at the AP.
Curt at Floppingaces, www.floppingaces2.blogspot.com, led the charge. He thought there was something strange about an AP report, and took a second look at it, then a third look. He and others blew the lid off it. The AP is making up war crimes. But the resulting stink in the blogosphere has barely wrinkled a nose in the mainstream press. The ethics-obsessed Poynter Institute seems to be oblivious to it.
It has to do with the AP’s Iraqi stringers and an oft-quoted Iraqi police captain named Jamil Hussein. Problem is, the Iraqi police say Capt. Hussein does not exist. The Iraqi police and U.S. military say an incident described in an AP report – Iraqi soldiers standing by as people were burned alive in a mosque – didn’t happen. Another AP-reported incident, U.S. soldiers shooting 11 civilians, also never happened, the military says.
When the AP was forced to acknowledge this situation, it did so in a story about a new Interior Ministry policy regarding false reports. The AP buried the fact that its own false report prompted this new policy.
The AP stands by its reporting.. The AP has cast “Capt. Jamil Hussein” simply as someone not authorized to speak, and AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll has sniffed morally: “Good reporting relies on more than government-approved sources.”
The AP has another Iraqi stringer problem. Photographer Bilal Hussein is in U.S. custody, and the AP has been clamoring indignantly for his release. AP reports have buried the U.S. explanation that Hussein is being held without charge because – quite aside from producing photos that showed him to be overly intimate with terrorists in Fallujah – he was in an al-Qaeda bomb factory, with an al-Qaeda bombmaker, with traces of explosives on his person when he was arrested.
The AP, of course, has been delivering unbalanced reports about U.S. national politics for some time, as when President Bush, whom AP reporters despise, is barely allowed to state his case on an issue before his critics are given twice as much space to pummel him. The AP, once a just-the-facts news delivery service, has lost its rudder. It has become a partisan, anti-American news agency that seeks to undercut a wartime president and American soldiers in the field. It is providing fraudulent, shoddy goods. It doesn’t even recognize it has a problem.
This is the point at which, another big American industry learned, people start buying Japanese. But as an American newspaper, if you want to provide your readers with affordable regional, national and international news, you have to deal with the AP.
If newspapers don’t have an alternative, readers do. It’s called the Internet. That’s why newspapers, if they don’t want to be dragged further into irrelevance and disrepute, have to tell The Associated Press they are dissatisfied with its product.
I agree with Crittenden that AP has an information monopoly and I agree with him that what’s happening is appalling. The only problem I have is with the “raising the stink” part. To the extent that AP has an information monopoly, to whom are we raising that stink? Sadly, conservative bloggers are entirely self-referential, and while we’re all complaining to each other, I get the feeling no one else is listening.
The fact that no one is listening matters because, while internet people are good at analyzing news, we still lack the resources to be on the ground and disseminate the facts. That’s where AP’s monopoly lies and I don’t see our astute analytical abilities upsetting that fact. Indeed, right now, outside of our intelligent, aware conservative echo chamber, the only one that is listening is AP itself, which is burying the story as fast as its monopoly can.
UPDATE: You can see an interviewwith Crittenden here, at Hot Air.